Archive for July, 2011

When TV is better than movies: Six Feet Under

Posted in Drama, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2011 by judsonw

I recently finished my second go around with arguably the greatest American television show of all time, HBO’s Six Feet Under. The shown ran from 2001-2005, but it still holds up today as an emotionally resonant, instantly relatable piece of art. Before True Blood, Alan Ball was the creator behind this show. His dark humor from “American Beauty” (which he wrote) is very prevelent in SFU’s characters and situations. However, Ball tapped into something all of us experience but are afraid to confront head on: death. It’s been 10 years since the series premiered, but I will always remember the show as a lifelong friend who died far too young.

The blunt realness of the series has all to do with the perfectly acted, deeply written character work. The show focuses on a semi-dysfunctional family called the Fishers who live in and run a funeral home. All their lives are turned upside down when the man of the house, Nathaniel Fisher, dies in a car crash. There’s Nate, the intellectual idealist son who is unsatisfied with his life but very relatable. There’s David, Nate’s gay brother who must deal with his insecurities as well as with running a business his father left to him. Sister Claire is the youngest and manages to be equal measures of sweet, emo, artsy, and insane during the course of show. And lastly we have the matriarch of the house, Ruth, probably the best acted character of them all. The characters are so real and deep that at some point during the course of the series, you will both hate and love every one of them.

The series’ final episode (especially the last 10 minutes or so) have been widely praised as the best conclusion to any series. That’s hard to argue with, as the finality of the show really hits you like a ton of bricks as you permanently say goodbye to this family you’ve come to love. The initial feeling of devestation is quickly replaced by a feeling of thanks that a TV show this good exists. Six Feet Under was much more than a TV show, however. It made me look at a part of myself I always hid from and those experiences in life (and death) that are simply unavoidable. To put it simply, it changed my life. How many movies can you say that about?


So long, Harry!

Posted in Action, Drama, Interesting..., Upcoming Releases with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2011 by judsonw

Like many others of my generation, Harry Potter represents something so much more than a young adult book series or movie franchise. It represents growing up, out of childhood into adulthood and all the pains and joys that go along with it. I read the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, when I was 10 years old. I remember where and when I bought it (some old dusty book store right before closing) and how fast I read it (all through Sunday school the next day). I read the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. Now, the final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” is being released when I’m 22 years old and fresh out of college! This story has been with me throughout the most important years of my life and I’m going to be a sad mope when the story concludes on July 15th.

While the books are definitely more complete and satisfying than the movies, the films themselves are actually all pretty solid. I’m able to separate both mediums…the books are the books and the films are the films. That being said, the movies are special. What other movie franchise has lasted this long (10 years) with pretty much the same cast throughout? What other movie franchise has captured its three main stars growing up and maturing both as characters and actors before our eyes? None, I tell you! Harry Potter recently passed James Bond as the most financially successful movie franchise of all time and it’s well deserved. The movies are pure cinema and the climatic battle in the final film will be a sight to see.

In preparation for the FINAL representation of the Harry Potter narrative on screen, here are some of my favorite things from the film series.

Best movie

There are things I like about each film and there’s not a bad one in the bunch. The third movie, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” however, is the most well made and marks the series’ turn from a children’s flick into a serious and dark form of artistic filmmaking. Director Alfonso Cuaron completely changed the tone of the series and got the best performances out of the trio. The final 30 minutes or so consists of one of best time travel sequences of all time and is incredibly emotionally resonant.

Best performance

This is a tricky one. Emma Watson is definitely the most talented of the trio but definitely not the strongest of all the actors. I would have to give that honor to none other than Dolores Umbridge herself, Imelda Staunton. Though she appeared in pretty much only one film, “Order of the Phoneix,” Staunton was able to create a character as evil as Voldemort and made you absolutely loathe her. Really though, it seems as if every single great British actor has appeared in these movies.

Best action sequence

Voldemort vs. Dumbledore. Fire dragons and water spheres. Bad ass wizards. Harry trapped physically and emotionally after the death of his godfather. A batshit insane Bellatrix Lestrange. Some incredible CGI. ‘Nuff said.

Most tear inducing scene

It’s pretty amazing that the filmmakers were able to take a character who was pretty much a joke for one film and turn him into the most tragic hero of the series in about 5 minutes of screen time. Dobby’s death on the beach in Harry’s arms is so touching that it had to have made millions of grown men cry. Just thinking of his final words “Dobby is with friends” makes the water works start running.

Best magical creature

Thestrals. Sure, I could chosen the enormous dragon or the loveable hippogriff. But there’s just something so mysterious about these flying skeletal horses that can only be seen by those who’ve seen death.

Best moment

There’s so many to pick from…Harry’s first Patronus, Sirius’s death, Dobby’s triumph, Voldemort’s return. But the most emotionally affected I’ve been during one of these movies occurred during Harry’s first flight on Buckbeak the hippogriff in “Prisoner of Azkaban.” The scene is relatively short but in those few moments, Cuaron managed to recapture my attention to a lukewarm franchise and ignite a fire in my heart. Like ET flying Elliot across the full moon, it’s pure magic.

Even though the story is finally ending on the screen, the story will be sure to live on through every generation of children, teenagers, and adults alike in the future. Here’s hoping for a satisfying conclusion!